Posted by: kennyt212 | July 6, 2010

Keeping Watch over the Gulf: True Freedom and Change We can Believe In

Hello again everyone! 

 I hope you had a great 4th of July weekend.  Thanks again for following our blog!

Almost two weeks ago, I posted an entry titled “Putting it all in perspective,” and hopefully you had a chance to read it and reflect on it (if not, feel free to do so now).  In the process of posting that blog, a lot of thoughts popped in my head that were interesting and worthy of sharing.  However, I didn’t get a chance to post them because I was afraid I would overwhelm people with too much information.  Now that it’s been a while since I last posted though, I’ve decided to share some of my thoughts.  Part one is below-check back later for part two.  Enjoy!:

Over the years, our world has faced many disasters, big events, or debates that have made headlines for a time and then faded into the distance and become “old news.” Earlier this year, for example, there was a massive earthquake in Haiti and flash floods in Nashville and Arkansas; less than five years ago, hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast area; almost nine years, the twin towers were attacked on September 11th; not too long ago, our country was having a huge debate about oil supplies in the Middle East and the war we were getting involved with there.  Of course, these are just some examples of headlines-I know there are plenty of other ones.  Regardless of how you look at it though, it is amazing how certain situations can look in hindsight.  Even though the specific stories might change, often times, the same issues, questions and “what ifs” are asked and are never really addressed.  As this Deepwater Horizon Oil spill clearly reminds us, a nonchalant attitude is not an appropriate response to a major world tragedy.  This oil spill-or, as some have more appropriately called it, this oil “volcano”-is a HUGE deal and it will be impacting our country and world for years to come.  We cannot forget about it!

One of the reasons that there might be a lack of urgency in responding to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill is because many of us don’t see or feel all the direct effects of it.  Unless you live in the Gulf Coast area, for example, you don’t physically see the oil coming onto the coasts other than looking at photos from media sources. While there are plenty of heartbreaking (and hopefully, motivating) photos we can all see of the disaster, it doesn’t have nearly the same effect as being there first hand.  As a faith community, it’s important to understand that even though we might not be able to feel or see the impacts of the disaster directly, it’s not responsible of us to let it slip off of our radar.  All of our lives are connected to the oil industry and I highly doubt, and hope that this connection will encourage us to not let this issue slip away from us. While this oil spill is definitely one of the worst in US history, there have been other spills in the past-many of which have been less well known to the public-and if we’re not careful, more are bound to occur in the future. 

When disasters such as this oil spill occur, one of the common responses that people take is to try to place blame.  “It was BP’s fault;” “Our government doesn’t have strict enough standards;” “Obama isn’t doing enough;” “The Bush administration and their oil agenda let this happen,” etc., etc.  While I would never try to undermine the importance of figuring out what happened, understanding what went wrong, and holding responsible parties accountable for their actions, it’s better to spend time and energy trying to fix what we can rather than waste time talking about what we can’t.  Both political parties have members who financially support the oil industry, and many of us have supported the industry in one way or another, so no one is completely innocent (see previous blog, as well as this link, for details about this).   Therefore, even though Congress has assured us that BP, not taxpayers will bear the cost of the spill, the fact that we live in a petroleum-based society means that in a sense, we ALL HAVE paid and WILL pay for the disaster. As people of faith, it’s important for us to look beyond the bipartisanship and other obstacles that are consuming our time and energy, and focus instead on the messages and lessons to be learned from the oil spill. As is the case with many other disasters, when we look at the situation from a bigger picture, it’s clear that there’s more to it than originally meets the eye. 

There is a lot to learn from this disaster, and each one of us will be impacted by it.  The oil spill is just one piece of a bigger puzzle, and it reflects a lot about who we are as a society and as individuals. While encouraging our lawmakers to implement policies that transition our society away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources is one way to create change, it’s not the only action that is needed.  Our preferences, habits, priorities and interests have dictated the actions of policy makers in the past, which in turn have facilitated the prices, quality, and quantity of the products we consume. As people of faith who care for each other and for society in general, the everyday choices and behaviors we exhibit send a powerful message to decision makers. Researching products before we buy them, driving less, biking, carpooling, using public transportation, telecommuting from work, buying a car with higher fuel efficiency and being resourceful are just some of the practical steps that Christians can take to reduce their consumption and fossil fuel use. While eliminating our use of fossil fuels overnight will be challenging, it’s a necessary step for society.  As a community of faith, if we lead as role models and show that we care about issue, we can help make this step happen.

One of the challenges with a disaster such as this is that people can feel discouraged about their ability to make a difference.  Scientific research even shows that receiving more information about environmental problems often times leads not only to greater concern about the issues but also a greater sense of helplessness. As people of faith though, we are encouraged to not let this feeling of helplessness prevent us from taking appropriate actions.  While many of us might not necessarily be in the position to directly influence action on this issue (e.g. be on the ground in the Gulf Coast or work for an organization handling the issue), that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to get involved   God has provided each of us with different gifts and abilities, and everyone is capable of loving Creation.  All we have to do is to turn to God and Scripture to find the courage and strength to find out how we can go about doing so.

Luke 11:9 provides some good insights into how we might find ways to respond to the oil spill.  This passage states, “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  As simple as this passage is, I think it’s important, because it signifies that even though it might be tough, it’s up for us as Christians to be motivated enough to find the answers to challenges in front of us.   “Ask,” “seek,” and “knock” indicate a Christian’s actions, and “receive,” “find,” and “the door will open” indicate the results of their actions. We are called by our faith to use our gifts, wisdom, and desire to help us respond to this oil spill appropriately, but we cannot expect results to occur without a desire to act.  Even if we have made mistakes in how we’ve handled issues like these in the past, God is still watching carefully and willing to give us the strength and wisdom to respond to this issue appropriately so that we take care of Creation-but only if we have the heart to ask and seek how we might be able to do so.

Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.”

PS: Hurricane Alex-lowest central pressure of any June Atlantic Basin hurricane since 1957 (lower pressure=more powerful)-check out the details!

PPS: Interesting article reflecting some of the same ideas I have shared.

                      ……..        TO BE CONTINUED     ……..

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